Indigenous Attempts to Enhance the energy supply from renewable sources other than Solar, Hydro and Wind By Maj Gen AK Chaturvedi, AVSM, VSM (Retd)

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Introduction

The most important driver for the economic growth of any nation is the sustained and adequate availability of energy at an affordable cost. Energy Security for any nation is as important as security against threats to the sovereignty because for a nation to be strong its economic strength is essential and economic strength is a function of energy security.

In the case of India, there is a gap between the technology available and the resources required for that. India’s dilemma can be explained as a  “TQQ Syndrome”. The TQQ syndrome entails nonavailability of resources for which technology is available and the resources that are available are either not enough quantitively or they suffer from qualitative inadequacy.

This Indian dilemma can be appreciated by the following state:-

  • India has fully developed technology to exploit petroleum products but India is terribly short of oil and gas and has to substantially depend on import substitution.
  • India has an adequate amount of coal but the Indian coal suffers from high ash content and low calorific value. Therefore either India goes for advanced coal conversion technologies or again goes for import substitution because coal-based technologies for its conversion to energy are available within the country.
  • India has mastered the complete cycle of exploiting locally available Uranium through Pressurised Heavy Water based technology. However availability of uranium in India is limited and qualitatively also it has limitation. India has adequate thorium but even the first plant scheduled to come up at Kalpakkam is still far from getting critical.
  • Hydro energy conversion in India is promising but North Indian rivers have problem of silt accumulation.
  • Thus future of India’s quest for energy points towards exploitation of renewables like solar, wind, waste and hydrogen. Although presently these systems are suffering from low efficiency and high cost of conversion, but it is felt that as economy of scales improves, slowly these issues will be addressed.India remains committed to environmental and climate causes with a massive thrust on deploying renewable energy and energy efficiency measures. In this connection it is significant to note that the renewable power portfolio of  India has grown from 32 GW to almost 100 GW in the last six years and now India is targeting 450 GW of renewable energy generating capacity by 2030.

New Initiatives of the GoI

Sustainable Alternative Towards Affordable Transportation (SATAT)- The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas (MOPNG) of the GoI has been working to optimise all possible sources to augment the energy generation in India. In this connection the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas has already launched an initiative, “ Sustainable Alternative Towards Affordable Transportation (SATAT)” to promote Compressed Bio-Gas (CBG) as an alternative, green transport fuel with effect from  2nd October 2018 using municipal and agricultural waste. CBG is clean and cheaper mode of fuel. It has come to light that the GoI is keen to set up 5000 CBG plants in next 5 years, and for this purpose, a production offtake guarantee is being given for such plants. There will be no restriction on the technology choice and Government is incurring Rs 75,000 Crore capital expenditure for setting up infrastructure for City Gas distribution network. Besides the potential to boost availability of more affordable transport fuels, better use of agricultural residue, cattle dung and municipal solid waste, the CBG plants will provide an additional revenue source to farmers, and 75,000 direct job opportunities and lakhs of indirect jobs. This initiative holds great promise for efficient municipal solid waste management and in tackling the problem of polluted urban air due to farm stubble-burning and carbon emissions. The use of CBG will also help bring down dependency on crude oil imports and in realising the Prime Minister’s vision of enhancing farmers’ income, rural employment and entrepreneurship.

Hydrogen as a Fuel- Yet another initiative which the MOPNG has gone for is utilisation of Hydrogen as a fuel. It was reported on 15 Apr 2021 by the Petroleum and Natural gas minister of India that India will augment its hydrogen supply chain infrastructure as it looks to accelerate plans to generate carbon-free fuel, which may have an edge over other non-fossil fuel sources.It needs to be noted That ‘Hydrogen has great potential to emerge as a future source of energy. Currently, Hydrogen comes from two sources. One is by fracking the hydrocarbon, it is known as blue hydrogen. In this, the Carbon-free hydrogen can be produced from fossils fuels, such as natural gas or coal, by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen using a current of electricity. Hydrogen thus generated can be used as a transport fuel. The second variation is green hydrogen. Green Hydrogen is produced when the electricity is produced by renewable power, such as solar or wind, the resulting pollutant-free hydrogen is called green hydrogen. The rapidly declining cost of renewable energy is one reason for the growing interest in green hydrogen. The promising part about Hydrogen is that it would slow global warming. Hydrogen as a  fuel in India is currently in its infancy and as such its supply and distribution network is inadequate and suffers from high production costs. The bigger issue is that the necessary infrastructure required for the supply chain to remain efficient and effective is not there. One of the measures to enhance the effectiveness of the supply chain it is being planned to be integrated with SATAT.

Progress of Hydrogen Exploitation-

·         Work was on pilot projects to produce blue hydrogen (from fossil fuels) and green hydrogen (from renewable sources), he said hydrogen was being blended with compressed natural gas (CNG) for use as a transportation fuel as well as an industrial input to refineries.

·         Fifty buses in Delhi are plying on CNG blended with hydrogen on a pilot basis. There are plans to scale it up in the coming months across the major cities of India.

·         In the current budget a National Hydrogen Mission  for making a road map for integrating Hydrogen in the Energy Supply System has been announced.

·         Indian refineries are planning to leverage the available surplus hydrogen capacities for meeting the initial demand in mainstreaming hydrogen. One such project is in the stage of implementation at the Gujarat refinery of the IOC. The technology adopted for this Hydrogen production is based on carbon capture technology from the natural gas.

·          It is also being tried to use the existing CNG pipeline network for ferrying of the Hydrogen.Thus an all out and comprehensive plan is being worked out to make use of hydrogen economical.By establishing synergies with natural gas, hydrogen can easily be incorporated in the energy mix without making major infrastructural changes. One of the spinoffs recommended by Minister of Petroleum during the Conference on Hydrogen Economy was introduction of H-CNG as an intermittent technology for both; transportation and domestic cooking applications.

·          Currently, the petroleum sector is the largest producer of hydrogen for various refinery process operations but as footprints of renewables in the energy sector increase, more and more green hydrogen will be available for exploitation.

  • The role of hydrogen as an energy carrier is being recognized and efforts are being made to harness its potential.
  • It needs to be appreciated utilisation of the hydrogen will graduate from the transportation sector to its use as a decarbonizing agent in the industry dealing with chemicals, iron & steel, fertilizer and refining and power generation.

Conclusion

Energy is critical to support the growth of the economy. However energy needs to be sustainable, affordable and above all environment friendly. The inclusion of hydrogen as an energy carrier in the future energy portfolio will be able to address emerging energy sectors, including power to gas, power to power, and power to mobility.

For a country like India depending on a single source is neither cost effective nor economical hence not advisable. Hence depending on local conditions and with a strong grid network, a basket of energy is the way ahead. Therefore diverse energy basket would be necessary to optimal utilisation of the available resources. For which leveraging of new technologies in synergy with the existing established technologies should be the way ahead.

The need to remain contemporary to the latest in the domain of technology, it is important that emphasis continues to remain on a strong Research and Development (R&D) setup with a strong linkage of this R&D set up with the Industry to engineer the technologies developed by the R&D into a usable form. Role of Academic institutions to support the efforts of R&D Set up will be equally important for the seamless integration of the efforts for the energy transitions.

Author – Maj Gen AK Chaturvedi, AVSM, VSM (Retd)  is a retired Indian Army General Officer who has served in Jammu & Kashmir, NE, Andman Nikobar on various appointments at Command and Army HQs. . He is Vice Chairman of Think Tank, “STRIVE”,  after retirement is pursuing his favorite hobby of writing for newspapers, journals, and think tanks.

Disclaimer: The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the organisation that he belongs to or of the STRIVE.

EndNote:

  1. PTI Report, “India to augment hydrogen supply chain: Pradhan” dated 15 Apr 2021, available on https://in.yahoo.com/finance/news/india-augment-hydrogen-supply-chain-114921989.html
  2. Maj Gen AK Chaturvedi, “Nuclear Energy in India’s Energy Security Matrix: An Appraisal”, Feb 2014 pub by Vij Book Depot Delhi.
  3. Renee Cho, “Why we Need Green Hydrogen”, published in the State of Planet by Columbia Climate School dated 07 Jan 2021.

19 thoughts on “Indigenous Attempts to Enhance the energy supply from renewable sources other than Solar, Hydro and Wind By Maj Gen AK Chaturvedi, AVSM, VSM (Retd)

  • April 18, 2021 at 2:43 pm
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    “Gobar Gas” was the childhood project we saw, good energy which incl light as well as gas to cook. The best part was the Gobar Compost Manure. this is with the cattle at home… Now organic produce is very popular.
    The Solar Energy to use for irrigation … Ltd period hydro elec at home. Invertors …the rural area is now round the clock energy.. which can easily take on the Agro products.
    The article gives out a full view, how to go and get energy…

    • April 18, 2021 at 4:13 pm
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      Actually nature is the the best source of energy mass transformation. All we need is to continuously upgrade technology for conversion. Use of Cow Dung Cake was a precursor of Gobar gas. The CBG further improves the efficiency. There is a GoI programme called RuTAG which addresses traditional practices in the village and leverage technology to enhance their efficiency and effectiveness. Thanks for finding the Article useful

  • April 18, 2021 at 12:59 pm
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    Halmark of Gen Chaturvedi’s articles; well researched, informative and clearly enunciated without technical jargons!! A good read!!

    • April 18, 2021 at 4:16 pm
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      Thanks. I will recommend that you may consider sharing it with your friends so that more awareness is generated.

  • April 18, 2021 at 12:35 pm
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    Please accept our heartiest felicitations on an extremely well produced piece sir.
    It is encouraging to hear that the cutting edge technology in the field is being applied in our country.
    There being a complementary aim, we should lay equal priority for both …CBG and Hydrogen.
    CBG resources are a plenty in this country!!!
    I always enjoy reading your articles.

    • April 18, 2021 at 4:21 pm
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      Thanks. CBG in any case is quite relevant in our case because the amount of municipal solid waste that is generated in India to the tune of 55 million tons per year along with agri waste a good enough to meet our energy needs. Unfortunately still there are certain technical challenges which need to be addressed to achieve the economy of scale. Hydrogen particularly green hydrogen in conjunction with CBG, solar and wind is the way ahead.

  • April 18, 2021 at 11:32 am
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    Green energy indeed is the way ahead. Therefore India needs to continue investing in R&D to find ways and means to exploit renewables efficiently.

  • April 18, 2021 at 10:20 am
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    At the bottom of many problems faced by nations is that demand outstrips supply. Therefore steps are required to control demand. Should we make big cars which drink lot of fuel but carry only one or two persons.
    Radical thinking is necessary and a shift from economy powered by consumption to economy based on optimum needs.

    • April 18, 2021 at 11:28 am
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      Well said. While reduction of demand is a good idea which each one of us practice in our individual capacity but as planners we need to continuously explore ways and means to enhance the supply. Leveraging the technology to exploit indigenous resources should be done to ensure sustainability and adequacy. It is of greater relevance that when we look at a new source we should see that it will last long enough and produce enough of energy to meet the economy of scales. Also another question which needs to be answered is whether existing infrastructure with a bit of tweaking can be utilised to meet the demand of an effective supply chain because every time creating of new infrastructure will be counter productive economically. The CBG and Hydrogen have synergy in logistic chain and enormity of waste and hydrocarbon/ coal can help help us to achieve adequacy and sustainability.

  • April 18, 2021 at 10:19 am
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    It’s really a highly informative and relevent article by you yet again sir. Hydrogen is the future indeed. Thanks for enlightening us more on the subject. 🙏🙏🙏

    • April 18, 2021 at 12:53 pm
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      Do not forget Compressed Bio Gas which is equally important. A combination of these two will be environment friendly, clean and over a period of time will become cost effective too.

  • April 18, 2021 at 8:29 am
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    A very pragmatic and well researched article that Niti Ayogya must take cognisance of.

    • April 18, 2021 at 11:29 am
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      Well said. While reduction of demand is a good idea which each one of us practice in our individual capacity but as planners we need to continuously explore ways and means to enhance the supply. Leveraging the technology to exploit indigenous resources should be done to ensure sustainability and adequacy. It is of greater relevance that when we look at a new source we should see that it will last long enough and produce enough of energy to meet the economy of scales. Also another question which needs to be answered is whether existing infrastructure with a bit of tweaking can be utilised to meet the demand of an effective supply chain because every time creating of new infrastructure will be counter productive economically. The CBG and Hydrogen have synergy in logistic chain and enormity of waste and hydrocarbon/ coal can help help us to achieve adequacy and sustainability.

      • April 18, 2021 at 7:44 pm
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        India has pledged *net zero emission* by 2050.Hydrogen as a fuel is in use in many countries in commercial and private vdhicles as hydrogen cell fuels or in internal combustion engines where it is combusted by oxggen ie burnt with oxggen .
        The 2050 pledge will certainly be a driving force towards developing tdmechnologies to harness renewable energy sources to reduce emission of greenhouse gases.However,the natural emissiòn of green house gases
        ie water vapour,carbon dioxide,nitrous oxide,ozone and methane is not feasible.
        India’s pro-active climate diplomacy
        is to the fore as climate change is one of the main agendas in its cooperation with US and other countries,particularly with Biden on the US horizon.
        Indua has vast reserves of Thorium.However,Thorium is not fissile ie cannot initiate a nuclear chain reaction per se.It has to be bombarded with fast moving neutrons to convert it into radioactive Uranium to initiate a nuclear chain reaction.
        PS.The subject is extremely relevant at present as there is too much reliance on fossilised fuels and these are the main reason of turmoil in the Middle East .The Central Asian fuel deposits are also getting into the cross hairs of energy-consuming sharks.
        The other renewable energy sources like solar and hydro-electric projects including run-of-the-river ones too have adverse eco anď environmental effects.
        Regards..

        • April 18, 2021 at 8:29 pm
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          As I have argued in my paper as well as during the Q&A that for a country like India one source based energy generation may not be feasible. We need to think in terms of basket of energy with a strong grid system. Keeping view our commitment during COP-21 and keeping in view our abundant renewable sources emphasis for future growth will be in renewable domain. India has already targeted to produce 450 GW of energy through renewables. While major emphasis is on Solar and Wind but CBG and Hydrogen can not be ignored. CBG because of very high quantity of MSW and agri waste being generated in India and hydrogen because initially because of possibility of generation of Hydrogen through decarbonation of the the hydrocarbon and as generation through renewable increase green hydrogen generation will become economically viable as both CBG and Hydrogen as possibility of using common logistics infrastructure. Yes state two of our nuclear programme is currently limited to a FBTR and first PFBR is stuck at about 97 % of completion. However it is my firm belief That we should not abandon this programme as we have enough of Thorium as part of Monazite sand. Western countries are trying hard to sabotage our nuclear programme but our energy independence hinges on our successfully reaching stage -3 of our nuclear programme that is breeder reactor whose technology demonstrator we have already made (KAMINI). I hope I have clarified doubts, if there were any. Regards.

          • April 20, 2021 at 9:34 am
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            My response to the narrative has been bàsed on facts and futuristic energy perspective .
            In,essence I furthered your approach with the ground reality.Thus,there are no doubts .
            Regards.

    • April 18, 2021 at 11:34 am
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      I have sent the article to Dr Rajiv Kumar, the Vice Chairman of the Neeti Aayog but if you can help to send it to some one who takes not of it it will be good.

  • April 17, 2021 at 10:08 pm
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    A very well researched and appropriate article. India should not lack behind in green energy sources. If we want to give a better future to generations ahead, carbon footprint has to be reduced.

    • April 18, 2021 at 11:35 am
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      I have sent the article to Dr Rajiv Kumar, the Vice Chairman of the Neeti Aayog but if you can help to send it to some one who takes not of it it will be good.

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